I do feel guilty for not writing about a parliamentary sitting, whenever the National Assembly or the Senate is meeting. The regret turns unbearable, if even long hours of attentive watching of the proceedings of the lower or the upper house of parliament failed to motivate writing this column.

Of late, this has begun to happen, too frequently. But after serious introspection I wouldn’t blame myself for the acts of omission. One is rather compelled to proclaim, audaciously for sure, that the majority of our legislators, especially a large number of them sitting in the Senate, is just not interested to allure media attention to their doings in parliament. Perhaps, they feel apologetic about some of their self-denigration traits.

The Senate has been holding another of its sessions these days. The primary objective of its summoning was to endorse a set of laws, specifically drafted with the intent of getting Pakistan out of the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Two of our main opposition parties, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), had already facilitated the Imran government to get those laws passed by the national assembly, with near-consensus.

The same parties had initially threatened to block the passage of these laws. They also spun the story that under the garb of pleasing FATF, some vicious and vindictive operatives of the Imran government were planning to equate all forms of ‘money laundering’ with ‘terror financing.” The ‘obvious intent’ was to manage long terms of prisons for some leading and vocal leaders of the opposition parties. Some of them were already charged for allegedly committing perennial crimes of money laundering.

The spin brigade of the Imran government, on the contrary, tried hard to make us believe that in return to their cooperation for speedy and smooth passage of FATF-related laws, the opposition representative had been seeking relief for their “corrupt leaders.” They were pressing for massive changes in the law, empowering the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), to firmly combat corruption.

Eventually, Shah Mehmud Qureshi suddenly walked into the national assembly, around two weeks ago. He delivered a long and thundering speech to promote the government’s narrative. And he left the house after rudely telling the opposition that fighting corruption remained the most important agenda of Imran Khan’s politics. “He wouldn’t concede an inch on this count,” he forewarned while conveying a take-it-or-leave-it message.

The forceful speech of Shah Mehmud Qureshi had hugely dented the reputation of both the main opposition parties. The government certainly had numbers to get the FATF-related laws by the national assembly. But his provocative speech had all the potential of annoying the opposition. The combined strength of these parties comprises a brute majority in the Senate. It surely had numbers to “reject” the FATF-related laws, already passed by the national assembly. That would have led to an ominous deadlock.

 

But to prevent the same, Faroogh Naseem, the suave law minister, had been launched. After a series of discreet and late night meetings, he hardly took anytime to persuade the usual set of some opposition legislators, enjoying complete trust of their leaders, that “patriotic compulsions” demanded the quick and smooth passage of FATF-related laws. After winning their hearts, he profusely acknowledged their ‘positive contribution’ by delivering a syrupy speech in the national assembly as well.

 

The opposition should have continued with its “responsible and patriotic conduct” by extending cooperation for speedy endorsement of FATF-related laws by the Senate as well. For no plausible looking reasons, though, some of its senators opted hard to get. The government needed time to manage them and to ensure it the Senate had been starting its sittings, for the past three days, fairly late in the evening.

 

In the absence of a clear legislative agenda, most senators availed the opportunity to randomly speak on all possible issues under the sun. There also were visible attempt to score points or deliver passionate speeches on mostly trivial matters. Yet, thanks to cool and steady management, government handlers of the parliamentary business finally extracted what they originally required from the opposition Wednesday evening.

 

The national assembly had passed a set of eight laws, ostensibly to satisfy FATF. Until Tuesday, the Senate had already endorsed six of these laws, without much ado. Yet, the opposition did manage induction of some amendments in two FATF-related laws Wednesday. Neither the government nor any opposition senator cared to explain why these amendments were to be added. They prefer to adopt the approach of “all is well that ends well.”

 

The consensus, the PML-N and PPP furnished for the Imran government, certainly helped Senator Atta-ur-Rehman of Jamiat-e-Ulma-e-Islam (JUI-F) to deliver a scathing speech, primarily to project the main opposition parties as “slavish collaborators” of the Imran government. The younger brother of Maulana Fazlur Rehman also kept pressing the senators from these parties to explain “reasons, which make them look so vulnerable, when it comes to dealing with the government.”

 

Senator Mushtaq Ahmad of the Jamaat-e-Islami firmly endorsed his position. But he focused more on promoting the feeling that FATF-related laws were essentially “dictated by foreign forces,” mostly perceived as hostile to Islam and conspiring against Muslims by our religious-right.

 

The taunting speeches from senators of religious-political parties were understandable in a larger context. But in the end, Dr. Shahzad Wasim, the leader of the House, certainly produced the real embarrassment for the main opposition parties. After the smooth disposal of FATF-related laws, he didn’t feel grateful about the cooperative behavior of the PML-N and PPP. Instead of thanking them, he preferred to recall that Pakistan had been put in FATF’s grey list during the times of previous governments.

 

Tauntingly referring to a plethora of cases, filed against some top opposition leaders, he rather made a serious and dedicated attempt to spin the story that it was not the question of ‘terror financing’ per se, which had pushed Pakistan to FATF’s grey list. Top leaders of the PML-N and PPP, like Asif Ali Zardari and the Sharif family, almost “asked for it.” After all, they had been amassing millions while heading the previous governments and recklessly purchased pricey real estates in foreign lands after “laundering” their ill-gotten money.

 

Senators, representing the PML-N and PPP, certainly looked baffled by his speech. But they miserably lacked the strength and energy to check him, forcefully. Without extracting anything solid and visible from the Imran government in return to facilitating the smooth and speedy passage of FATF-related laws, they had certainly empowered Dr. Wasim Shahzad to savagely humiliate them by delivering thanks-but-no-thanks sort of a speech Wednesday. He surely deserved savoring the last laugh.